Wednesday, 20 January 2010


Rory Stewart is a one-to-watch wunderkind,
now a Harvard professor of some achingly modern syllabus, briefly an officer in the Black Watch, once, at 31, a Deputy Governor of an Iraq Province, an OBE and the Tory PPC for a Cumbrian seat, on telly he oozes an erudition, a wisdom and a presence which Michael Portillo, faltering and stumbling self-consciously from one bizarre sinecure of a show to another, completely lacks; maybe it's because Stewart's an Old Etonian, maybe it's because he has had a life outside the ghastly, pampered world of Westminster. There seems to be stuff going on his head, other than the calculations of the opportunist.

His two-part consideration of TE Lawrence of Arabia, as inspiration to the Taliban of today - and all guerilla fighters - and as a deeply thoughtful realpoliticiste, bitterly dismayed by the West's breaking of solemn promises given to a fledgling Arabian state, is compelling both for the relatively novel broadcasting technique of Stewart himself - it is still largely a head in various exotic location talking to camera, although framed and expressed with poise and poetry and occasional silence - and for the sandscapes, the backdrops to Lawrence's military and political endeavours, shot, perhaps predictably, cinematically.

Stewart's analysis of our self-interested carve-up of the Middle East is not his exclusive property but his simple freshness of approach makes Simon Schama, for instance, look like Ena Sharples. As well as shedding considerable light on why it is that those in the region with inherited memories of Lawrence's time so despise us, these programmes are pleasant to the eye, stimulating, informative and authoritative, this is good telly.

If he is elected, by the way, Stewart will highlight the utter vacuity and worthlessness of the prefect, Cameron; imagine, a parliamentarian, soldier, civil servant, academic, broadcaster and thinker, he'll be like a fish out of water.


TDG said...

He hides it better than Galloway, it is true, but you'd see it if you met him. Or read his books. Should keep the others on their toes, anyhow.

call me ishmael said...

Thanks. Just picked up Occupational Hazards and The Places In-Between, any thoughts to offer, Mr TDG, a brief review,perhaps ?

Dick the Prick said...

Yup, I wondered if the lad may have made a mistake but fuck it, his problem not mine, if he wants to fanny round Westminster as if any of it makes the slightest scrap of difference then he'll be a valued occupant. Strange really, a politician who understands politics - can't be having that don't chaknow? Simply unheard of - the damn right cheek of the man!

call me ishmael said...

Probably jusr a case. Mr DTP, of what is it, now, droit de seigneur, he gets to fuck us because he went to Eton and Oxford. Still, at least he's not the usual pinstripe, red-faced, braying Tory wanker and he may well be entertaining, which would be a huge improvement on the current gang.

TDG said...

Stewart is a gifted narcissist; such powers as he has (and they are not inconsiderable) are devoted exclusively to the business of elevating him in his own eyes.

You can tell simply by the ratio of what he appears to *be* to what he has actually *done*.

And it is there in his books, in his insolent treatment of the "natives" he encounters, his comical misunderstanding of the significance of their warmth towards him, his needless risk-seeking - just a prop for exhibitions of theatrical coolness.

Even his relations with women are diagnostic. What, if you were a woman, would you make of an accidental companion at dinner, who after a few pleasantries offers the line: "I know you don't think much of me at the moment but you will learn to love me after a few years together"?

call me ishmael said...

Bravo. We will be interested in what, if anything, you have to say, Mr TDG, about his assessment of Lawrence of Arabia. Coolness was a word which escaped me when describing his screen presence but yes, that's right, a studied, theatrical coolness. Watching the clod-hopping Cameron, today, lamenting broken Britain - he should visit, here - coolness was the last thing which came to mind. One to watch, indeed, Mr Stewart, OBE.